B1G QB rankings entering Week 4: Cliff's edge and Thorne on the rise after big weekend
We have some quarterbacks in the B1G, don’t we?
There were a lot of questions about so many quarterbacks through the first two weeks of the season. Then, Week 3 happened. Now, it feels like we’re starting to see some guys create some separation, but we are only a quarter of the way through the year.
Last week, the quarterbacks with the most impressive performances were Michigan State’s Payton Thorne and Penn State’s Sean Clifford. Both were outstanding in leading their teams to wins over ranked opponents in Week 3. Because of that, both are now in the Top 3.
Over the next few weeks, these rankings could still see some significant shifts. We’re about to enter the heart of the B1G season and the competition is going to get a lot more challenging. That’s when we’ll really see what these quarterbacks can do.
Right now, the Top 4 are pretty easy to name (though still hard to rank). After that, it gets a little more difficlut.
Unranked this week
Brandon Peters, Illinois
Graham Mertz, Wisconsin
Hunter Johnson/Andrew Marty/Ryan Hilinski, Northwestern
Michael Penix Jr., Indiana
10. Spencer Petras, Iowa
Last week vs. Kent State: 25-of-36, 209 yards, 1 TD
Welcome into the Top 10, Mr. Petras. The Iowa quarterback hasn’t shown too much through the first three weeks of the season, but he hasn’t needed to thus far. Petras is completing over 58% of his passes and hasn’t tossed an interception. Playing against high-level defenses in Indiana and Iowa State, that’s important in getting two key wins. Petras had his best outing of the season against Kent State. Will that be the spark that translates to more consistent performances?
9. Cade McNamara, Michigan
Last week vs. Northern Illinois: 8-of-11, 191 yards, 1 TD (1 rushing TD)
Another quarterback who hasn’t had to do too much this season but has also avoided making mistakes. McNamara posted a staggering 23.9 yards per completing in Michigan’s dominating performance against Northern Illinois in Week 3. So far, McNamara has thrown for 371 yards with 3 touchdowns and no interceptions as the Wolverines have leaned heavily on the run game. McNamara faces a new challenge this weekend, playing a Rutgers defense that forced 9 turnovers in its first two games.
8. Noah Vedral, Rutgers
Last week vs. Delaware: 21-of-26, 323 yards, 2 TDs
Quietly, Vedral is having a nice season in Piscataway. His completion rate sits at 71.6%, he’s thrown 4 touchdown passes and was finally able to connect on some deep passes last week against Delaware. Offensive coordinator Sean Gleeson has really put his quarterback in a good position to make some plays and allow him to consistently get the ball to his playmaker in space. Vedral’s task is much tougher on Saturday, with Rutgers heading to Ann Arbor to play a stingy Michigan defense. We’ll find out just how much Vedral has grown up as a starting QB.
7. Tanner Morgan, Minnesota
Last week vs. Colorado: 11-of-17, 164 yards
Having Chris Autman-Bell back on the field is a big help. Morgan hit the No. 1 receiver 4 times for 79 yards in a blowout win over Colorado. There was nothing overly impressive about Morgan’s day in Boulder, but the passing attack looked a little better than it had in the first two games. Minnesota needs to have a better presence through the air with B1G play looming. Now that Autman-Bell is back in the lineup, it’s on Morgan to bump his completion percentage up from 56% to help the Gophers escape a somewhat one-dimensional offensive approach.
6. Adrian Martinez, Nebraska
Last week vs. #3 Oklahoma: 19-of-25, 289 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT (34 rushing yards, 1 TD)
Currently the B1G’s only 1,000-yard passer — but Nebraska has played 4 games while most of the league has played 3. Martinez is coming off his most impressive outing of the season and gave the Huskers a shot to leave Norman with an upset victory in hand. Not only is Martinez completing over 65% of his passes, he’s rushed for nearly 300 yards and has accounted for 9 total touchdowns. If he continues to play at this high level, Nebraska is going to have a real shot to upset a few teams on a difficult schedule.
5. C.J. Stroud, Ohio State
Last week vs. Tulsa: 15-of-25, 185 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT
There might be a shoulder issue that is hindering Stroud’s accuracy. Pair that with a young quarterback just getting his feet wet and you’re bound to see at least a few mistakes on the field. Stroud didn’t have a strong showing his arm or his legs in Saturday’s win over Tulsa, and the biggest problem was not getting the ball to Chris Olave. Even though he’s struggled early, Stroud has the potential to be one of the B1G’s top quarterbacks. Right now, we’re just not seeing the type of player we expect out of Columbus. Perhaps that’s unfair to Stroud.
4. Jack Plummer, Purdue
Last week vs. #12 Notre Dame: 25-of-36, 187 yards, 1 TD
Plummer might’ve stayed inside the Top 3 if not for the questionable decision made by his head coach late in Saturday’s game against Notre Dame. Despite a solid outing, Jeff Brohm inserted Aidan O’Connell, who tossed two interceptions on the final two drives. This season, Plummer is completing over 72% of his passes, has hit the end zone 7 times through the air and has yet to toss an interception. Even behind an offensive line that has struggled this season, Plummer continues to play at a high level.
3. Payton Thorne, Michigan State
Last week vs. #24 Miami: 18-of-31, 261 yards, 4 TDs
Nobody in the B1G has been a bigger surprise that Thorne. He was named the B1G Co-Offensive Player of the Week after a brilliant performance against Miami on the road. Thorne leads the B1G in touchdown passes (9) and has no picks to his name. Michigan State’s offense has done an excellent job of allowing Thorne to get the ball to his playmakers and he’s already demonstrated the ability to make every throw on the field. The Spartans have a weapon under center that they haven’t had in a few years. It has MSU sitting with a 3-0 record heading into a big matchup against Nebraska.
2. Sean Clifford, Penn State
Last week vs. #22 Auburn: 28-of-32, 280 yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT
Clifford gets the nudge at No. 2 over Thorne because the competition he’s played has been slightly tougher. Plus, his performance on one of the biggest stages in college football on Saturday night was unmatched. Clifford only had 4 incompletions despite throwing more than 30 passes against Auburn. His interception at the end of the first half was essentially a punt. He’s playing with a ton of confidence right now. In three games, Clifford has 757 yards through the air, 90 on the ground and has accounted for 5 touchdowns. He’s also gotten Penn State two wins over ranked opponents.
1. Taulia Tagovailoa, Maryland
Last week vs. Illinois: 32-of-43, 350 yards, 1 TD (25 rushing yards)
Maryland’s offense has depended heavily on Tagovailoa’s arm and he’s delivered. His 106 passes are a B1G best, as is his 75.5% completion rate on the way to a 3-0 record. Oh, and he’s accounted for 7 touchdowns without an interception. Not bad for someone throwing the ball as frequently as he has in three games. Most impressively, Tagovailoa showed incredible poise during Maryland’s final two drives in a comeback victory over Illinois. He completed 7-of-8 passes for 107 yards with a game-tying touchdown and setting up the game-winning field goal. Tagovailoa has been really crisp through three games.